Public hearing set on floodplain maps, ordinance

PARKERSBURG – A public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday on proposed changes to Wood County’s floodplain maps and county floodplain ordinance.

The hearing will be in the Fort Boreman public meeting room in the Judge Black Courthouse Annex. Wood County Planning Commission is conducting the hearing. A second public hearing will be scheduled for a date and time to be announced later. That hearing will be before the Wood County Commission.

“The public may comment on the proposed changes in the newly revised floodplain digital insurance rate maps and the proposed changes to the ordinance at the March 6 hearing,” said county administrator, planning director Marty Seufer.

The public comment period was Nov. 8 to Feb. 5, 2013.

“The floodplain maps were created in 1985, and we have been using the same maps since then. The Federal Emergency Management Agency revised the maps. They are in charge of the maps and the National Flood Insurance Program,” Wood County Emergency Management Director Ed Hupp said.

Hupp said the ordinance needed to be updated including some definitions to bring it into compliance with changes made by the state.

“Some of the elevations have changed, using the new data from this latest engineering study. Basically no base elevations have increased, but in some cases they have decreased slightly. So some of the properties that were in might now be out of the flood zone; people might want to check. And if any of the overlays are incorrect, it could be that property that wasn’t in appears to be in now. That’s what the appeal process is for, to find those errors,” Hupp said.

The base flood elevation in the Parkersburg area is about 610 feet. Wood County has a 2-foot additional freeboard limit which cuts insurance rates by an additional 45 percent, Hupp said.

The county received about 105 pages of the digitized maps. The cities of Vienna, Parkersburg and Williamstown have their own maps and handle the program within their corporate limits, Hupp only handles the rural, unincorporated areas and North Hills. Copies of the maps are available at the Wood County 911 Central Telecommunications Center on Core Road. Maps of the county showing flood zones are available online under maps at the Wood County website, www.woodcountywv.com.

In 1968, Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program to help provide a means for property owners to financially protect themselves. The NFIP offers flood insurance to homeowners, renters, and business owners if their community participates in the NFIP. Participating communities agree to adopt and enforce ordinances that meet or exceed FEMA requirements to reduce the risk of flooding which include requirements for building permits and building elevations for structures within the floodplain areas.

Wood County joined the program in 1977. Violations of floodplain regulations and building permit requirements can result in probation or suspension from the federal flood insurance program, affecting federally subsidized flood insurance policies and future county flood claims through FEMA.

If the county is found to be in violation of flood insurance program regulations, it can be placed on probation or removed from the program, making federally subsidized flood insurance unavailable.

Among other things, the regulations require buildings in the floodplain be elevated to a required height above flood level, and a surveyor, engineer must certify the elevation. Recent changes also require certification of the elevation levels, as well as inspections of the structure to assure elevation and anchoring requirements have been met.

The revised maps are based on new studies of the Ohio and Little Kanawha rivers and as well as tributaries of water that drain into those rivers.